Gracie Anne’s Story
In honor of her 2nd birthday.
Rachael found out she was pregnant with their first child in the fall of 2007. Her due date would be August 14th 2008. Everything was routine for the first trimester. She even had a triple screen blood test done to test for abnormalities- those results came back normal. At around 21 weeks she had her first ultrasound. Of course we were so excited to find out whether the baby was a girl or a boy. I hate recalling this, but the memory will never leave me. Rachael called and I answered, “So??? In a very excited voice…” there was silence and sobs… I was in such a state of shock I made Rachael repeat the horrible news. “Something is very wrong with the baby… a cystic mass… can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl… will know more in 4 days when we see the specialist…”
Four days later we all (Mom, Dad, Rod, Kathy, myself and a dear friend Michelle..) went with Rachael and Justin for the follow up scan with the specialist. As the scan progressed I knew she would not live. I heard 2 vessel cord, possible heart defects, fluid in the chest and abdomen, cystic hygromas… I had studied up a bit and knew that these things all together were fatal. So as he turned the lights on and gathered us all around Rachael and Justin I knew what he was going to say. I think Rachael knew too.
We were told, “She will not live. She’s too sick. These hygromas have caused a disastrous back up of fluid in her whole body. Because of this fluid her lungs and other organs cannot form properly. Her heart looks pretty sick and may also have defects. All of these things together point towards a syndrome or chromosomal defect. He mentioned Turners Syndrome and Trisomy 18. She might die before she is born, but if she is born alive there is no way to help her.” Rachael was offered the option of inducing labor/aborting the pregnancy. She refused.. Not while her heart is still beating… We found out later (after her birth) that Gracie did have Turner’s Syndrome.
Rachael and Justin were living with Rod and Kathy (Justin’s parents). They had just finished building their home and had planned to move in that day. They had also just celebrated there 1 year wedding anniversary.
After we all held each other and cried. Rachael wiped her tears and said, “ok-- lets go move..” Life goes on… Even when you cannot comprehend how. So family and friends gathered around and helped move Rachael and Justin into their new home that evening.
The next 2 weeks we cried, prayed, talked to Rachael’s belly and tried to take it one day at a time. Rachael received a word from God that her baby was a girl and that her name was Grace.
One of the things I wrestled with and I know Rachael did as well, was the thought that Gracie was in pain. It was pretty unbearable to think of her suffering. All we could do was call on Jesus for mercy for her. I began to realize that pain and suffering did not have to be this horrific thing. I was struck by Jesus’ and His suffering on the cross for us, His redemption and His resurrection. He suffered greatly and now sits at the right hand of the Father. I realized that to live means to suffer. To live means to have pain. We all suffer, we all have pain and we all die- eventually. As a mother you think you want to spare your children pain, but obviously it’s not possible- they will hurt. The answer to our pain is of course Love. As Rachael shared after Gracie died:
“Through Gracie God has given me this: that all we have to do is chose to love in all situations. Love our selves, love others, love and know we are loved. If we love, we don't fear, hate, have bitterness, self pity, anger, or envy. The by products of love are Joy and Peace! And I realized that I need to love. I did love Gracie and still do and it is beautiful that God gave me that. If we love in all situations only good will come of it. Nothing evil ever came out of love. When I start to have the negative emotions I remember that I love(ed) her. Just LOVE. This was the verse I used at our wedding it means so much more to me now.
“Love bears all things
believes all things
hopes all things
endures all things
Love never ends”
Love endures all things. Love endures all pain. Love endures all suffering. Through Jesus, through His suffering, His LOVE we have the hope of the resurrection- Love never ends.
Over those 2 weeks Gracie’s movement became less and less. She weakened and Rachael knew in her heart that she was dying. April 17th she felt Gracie kick for the last time. She waited all that day to feel her little girl she waited all through the night and into the next morning . . . nothing . . . So she called Justin at work and asked him to meet her at the hospital . . . She just knew . . . We met them there. The tech put the ultrasound wand on to her belly and there she was . . . still . . . The flutter of her heart had stopped. We cried and it was then Rachael smiled through her tears and looked right at me and said, “It’s okay . . . It’s okay..”
They started the induction process that afternoon. Rachael suffered greatly. She was in agony physically and that with her emotional pain was just too much for us to bear. We all begged her to get an epidural and she refused for a long time. Later she explained that pain was all she had, it was her part of this experience with her baby and she didn’t want to dull it. She had a hard time explaining what she meant, but I understood. It just hurt the rest of us so much to see her suffering so intensely. Eventually she gave in, probably for Justin and the rest of us. The night went on and on and on… I went home to feed my baby and was called back as it was time for Rachael to push.
We were all nervous about how Gracie would look. It was hard to have dread or fear about seeing a precious baby, but that’s just the reality of it. We needn’t have been scared. I know there were things about Gracie that were very hard to see, but all I saw was beauty, it’s all I remember. Rachael has expressed the same. She was beautiful. She seemed very peaceful and graceful. She was 1 pound 8 oz and 10 inches long. We all held her, Rachael and Justin spent some time alone together with her and then we watched the nurse walk out with her.
A nurse that had taken care of Rachael the day before, but had to leave before Rachael gave birth- came into the room and said, "I saw Gracie- she’s beautiful!" That meant so much to Rachael. Patti from Alexandra’s House was truly an Angel to us that day and the 2 weeks before. Her quiet, faithful and joyful spirit was so comforting. She brought a dress, donated Gracie’s coffin and shared her special view of babies like Gracie. She feels they are very special souls and those who are touched by ones such as Gracie are very blessed. Her many years of serving people who are losing their babies have made her a rare and transcendent sort of beautiful. You believe her words because she embodies what she believes.
We buried Gracie a few days later at the foot of Justin’s Grandpa Gravitt. He had 4 boys and he had always wanted a little girl. So Gracie rests with him.
The pain of losing Gracie stays the same. The time in between my sufferings is lengthening, but the depth of my pain remains. Rachael feels the same. I don’t believe that will ever change in this life. As I have said- there is a sweetness to that pain as it is all I’ve ever known with Gracie. I know she is at peace. I believe she still exists. I believe we will be together again.
Love bears all things
Love believes all things
Love hopes all things
Love endures all things
Love never ends
We love you Gracie! Always and forever,